WP 201902 - An Initial Assessment of Biodiversity-Related Employment in South Africa


Amanda Driver, Fulufhelo Mukhadi & Emily A. Botts

Date of Publication: 
October 2019

Abstract: In the context of high and persistent unemployment in South Africa, this paper explores the extent to which the country’s biodiversity assets, which are exceptional in global terms, contribute to providing jobs. A conceptual framework for defining biodiversity-related employment is presented. Using a methodology that draws on a combination of three different data sources (administrative data, national survey data, and existing estimates for particular biodiversity-related sectors or sub-sectors), an initial estimate was developed of 388 000 direct jobs related to biodiversity in 2014, representing 2.5% of national employment. The estimate was subsequently updated to 418 000 biodiversity-related jobs in 2017, representing 2.6% of national employment. Of these 418 000 jobs, 17% (72 000) were jobs involved in conserving biodiversity, and 83% (346 000) were jobs that depend on using biodiversity, including both non-consumptive and extractive use. The number of jobs that depend on using biodiversity is likely to be an underestimate, as data was available only for some biodiversity-related sectors or sub-sectors. An important finding is that for every job dedicated to conserving or managing South Africa’s biodiversity assets and ecological infrastructure, approximately five jobs depend on utilising biodiversity. The implication is that current efforts to conserve and manage biodiversity should be seen not simply as an end in themselves or a cost to the economy but as an investment in a resource that supports wider economic activity and employment. The results suggest strong potential for biodiversity assets to support long-term inclusive growth and employment outside major urban centres, with further work needed to quantify this potential and to determine how best it can be enabled.

This paper was developed as part of the REDI 3x3 Research Project on Employment, Income Distribution and Inclusive Growth, within Focus Area 3 on Inclusive Growth. The research was undertaken by the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) with guidance from the Development Policy Research Unit (DPRU).

This paper is accompanied by a Biodiversity Employment factsheet for policymakers.

Download Working Paper: DPRU WP 201902